April 16th, 2006

Brad @ Burning Man

Follow-Up: Who's Being Rude to Whom at a Pride Parade?

(I got home from a party way too late last night and crashed directly into bed, and regrettably didn't have anything queued and ready to go automatically. So all you get today is a brief follow-up to yesterday. Sorry!)

In reply to yesterday's "defense of feather headdresses and ass-less chaps," jsl32 suggested that I was "speaking out against tact." What I didn't take the time to say to this, yesterday, was that I think it's a fair question who's being rude here -- the people flaunting their sexuality in a Gay Pride parade, or the people who are insisting on their right to shut that behavior down because they're offended?

A Gay Pride parade is roughly 2 hours long. It's scheduled months, or more often years or decades, in advance. Reminders of when and where it will be held appear in every news and broadcast venue for days and weeks beforehand. The routes are generally planned to go through either commercial areas where nobody lives (and during non-business hours), or through majority-gay neighborhoods, or both. If you picked those two hours out of the eight thousand, seven hundred and sixty hours of the year, to be in those 10 or fewer blocks out of the many hundreds of blocks making up any major city, and are offended by what you see there, then either you have the worst luck in the history of the human race (unlikely) or else, far more likely, you went there knowing what you were going to see. After all, these kinds of behavior and costuming have been a standard feature of Gay Pride parades for thirty years now; if you're there to be offended, it is almost certainly because you knew that. And that, in my opinion, negates any right you have to be offended.

It's their parade. If you don't want to see it, don't go and don't go out of your way to track down and be offended by video footage of it. To paraphrase something that phierma said at last night's party, that's not being offended because somebody shoved their thing your face. That's being rude by shoving your face in their thing.

In a discussion of this on somebody else's journal (kynn's? I'm not sure), somebody asked, "if it's not the disgusting going's-on at Gay Pride parades that motivates homophobia, what is it?" I was feeling tired and snarky, so I gave the capsule summary, the one-line synopsis: fear that heterosexual men will be subject to the same kinds of sexual harassment that nearly all women are subjected to. Let me expand on that remark because that's exactly why the kind of public behavior that triggur is offended by is essential if there is ever going to be public acceptance of, and safety for, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites, and the transgendered.

Run the following experiment: Ask a dozen or more men, friends and co-workers and family members, if they've ever been asked out on a date or otherwise sexually propositioned by another man. If the answer is yes, ask them how they felt when it happened. If the answer is no, ask them to imagine that a gay man mistook them for someone who might accept such an invitation and asked them out on a date or propositioned them for sex. If you're a man yourself, add your own answers to that.

In my experience, the overwhelming majority reaction is disgust, usually mixed with anger. And what I am suggesting is that the reason for the anger is the disgust. Your average man is deeply disgusted by the thought of what gay men do with each other in private. He is not okay with it, even if he thinks that he's the kind of person who doesn't care what two consenting adults do in their own privacy. Even if he thinks that he's tolerant, he privately thinks that people who do such things are disgusting, revolting, gross people. He tolerates his gay acquaintances, co-workers, relatives, and friends only by fooling himself into think that since they're not disgusting, revolting, gross people then they obviously don't do "those things." So he can't take it as a compliment when another man finds him sexually or romantically attractive, and simply gracefully (or, if he's a jerk, bluntly) decline the way he would if an unattractive woman propositioned him. Because when another man propositions him, what that says to him on a deep, maybe even unconscious level is that that other guy has mistaken him for someone who is so gross, disgusting, and revolting that he would do those kinds of things, and that's an insult not to be peacefully (let alone gracefully) borne.

And that is why I am saying that no gay man, or any "pervert" in the world really, is safe until mainstream society gets over their disgust towards such things. Until they get over that disgust, the kind of innocent mistake that Matthew Shepard made can lead to grisly death. And I can conceive of very few other strategies as potentially effective as every year, for two hours a year, having the same boring repetitive and highly theatrical sexualized performances in public.